Downtown St. Pete will soon get its own little piece of the Oxford Exchange. Aesthetically reminiscent of Tampa’s popular OE, the 4,000-square-foot restaurant — with hanging globe light fixtures and wood paneling that transitions into black-and-white tiled floors — coming to 600 5th St. S. is called The Peabody.
The Peabody is taking shape inside the new research and education building at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. The hospital’s CEO, Dr. Jonathan Ellen, approached OE owners Allison Casper Adams and Blake Casper about opening an OE on the first floor. But rather than expanding with a second location, the sibling duo wanted to channel the George Peabody Library, located on the Peabody campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and develop a space for community and conversation among soaring bookshelves.
Inspired by its namesake library and late philanthropist George Peabody’s philosophy of enriching the lives of others, the forthcoming St. Pete restaurant wasn’t exactly in the business plan for Casper and Adams. However, when Dr. Ellen shared his vision for the Johns Hopkins campus, as Adams tells it, they just couldn’t say no.
The Peabody showcases a coffee bar with Buddy Brew Coffee, similar to its older Tampa sibling, alongside a full-liquor bar and full-service dining room. A new menu from OE executive chef Richard Anderson and former executive sous chef Rachel Bennett, who now serves as The Peabody’s executive chef, is also in store. Featured during breakfast, brunch, lunch and “early supper,” the lineup pairs slightly heavier dishes like steak frites with gourmet sandwiches and custom salads. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes aren’t forgotten, either.
According to Bennett, diners can expect fun twists and good food, done well.
“I’m excited to bring parts of OE to our menu while still creating our own identity,” she said.
Bennett has previously worked in the kitchens of Tampa’s Edison: Food+Drink Lab and Bern’s Steak House. She’s been with OE for nearly four years, rising from sous chef to executive sous chef before taking the culinary reins at The Peabody. With her crisp chef’s jacket poised to debut in less than a month, she shares with CL what the executive chef position in a field historically dominated by men means to her.
“I’m empowered to represent for female chefs out there,” Bennett said. “If nothing else, we will be organized and the food will be delicious.”
The restaurant will cater to hospital patients, staff and researchers with enough room to feed St. Pete residents.
“I think The Peabody is going to start a revolution partnering with Johns Hopkins. It will show that great restaurants can be anywhere,” the chef said. “It’s also a chance to reach so many people and be able to brighten their day. Hospitality is the name of the game, and we are excited to bring that to Johns Hopkins.”
Adams looks forward to seeing how the location attracts the attention of locals and to hosting a variety of diners at The Peabody. About 100 seats are up for grabs inside, and a beautiful outdoor area, which the restaurant inherited, will accommodate 200 additional guests (and provide some shade no matter what time of day they visit).
“Blake and I want to create the feeling of cultivating community, whether they are stopping by for a coffee or staying for lunch. We’re excited to see how The Peabody will evolve,” Adams said while on business in downtown Baltimore.
Although she and Casper aren’t bringing any other concepts to Tampa Bay at the moment, Adams is working on the launch of Maryland restaurant Alexander Brown.
Menus are live on on The Peabody’s website (this reporter has already started eyeing that hickory salmon with herb crème fraîche, Meyer lemon relish and toast points), including the takeaway options. Diners visiting for a quick grab-and-go meal needn’t make a reservation — they simply place an order at the front counter.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the restaurant is scheduled for the end of September, with a grand opening celebration to follow the next day. The Peabody plans to open at 7 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends. To start, 8 p.m. is closing time, yet that’ll remain flexible, allowing the restaurant to feel out market demands.
Free street parking is available on 6th Avenue South, and the garage across the street also offers public parking for third-floor spots and above. As for valet parking, that’s accessed on the south side of the Johns Hopkins Research Center along Mound Park Avenue. Pro tip: Guests might wanna download the ParkMobile app and carry at least $2 to ensure they’re prepared no matter what the parking situation may be. But, at last, the wait is almost over.